Funeral Director Fatigue Syndrome

Balance work with life.

Are you a funeral director, or do you know one who seems cynical, who is lacking in energy and who seems depressed at times? One of the lessons that I learned as an alcoholism and drug counselor is that the “helpers often need help.” The reason behind this adage is the company that caregivers keep — a funeral home is a business, but that business can cause burnout as well.

What are the signs of this burnout, or funeral director fatigue syndrome? Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt outlines this syndrome in his book, Funeral Home Customer Service A-Z: Creating Exceptional Experiences for Today’s Families. His list of symptoms are based upon psychologist Christina Maslach‘s signs of burnout, and he poses the symptoms as a list of questions in a survey:

  • Do you generally feel fatigued and lacking in energy?
  • Are you getting irritable, impatient and angry with people around you (home and/or work)?
  • Do you feel cynical toward and detached from the families you serve?
  • Do you suffer from mroe than your share of physical complaints, such as headaches, stomachaches, backaches and long-lasting cols?
  • Do you generally feel depressed or notice sudden fluctuations in your moods?
  • do you feel busy, yet have a sense that you don’t accomplish much at all?
  • Do you have difficulty concentrating or remembering?
  • Do you think you have to be the one to help all bereaved families that come through your door?
  • Do you feel less of a sense of satisfaction about your helping efforts than you have in the past?
  • Do you feel that you just don’t have anything more to give?

According to Dr. Wolfelt, if you answered “yes” to 2-4 of those questions, you may be in the early phases of funeral director fatigue syndrome. If you answered “yes” to 5-7 questions, you are moving quickly into the direction of total fatique. if you answered “yes” to eight or more questions, you are, without a doubt, burned out!

Unfortunately, Dr. Wolfelt does not provide a solution to this problem. But, you can read more about this issue at Caregiver Burnout, an article at Some of their strategies for dealing with burnout include staying fit, consulting with other professionals and pampering yourself on occasion.

The thing to remember is that you may not recognize that you are in the grips of burnout until it’s too late. Be open to what others say to you, especially if you know that person is someone who cares about your and your well being.

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